Khashoggi Killing Detailed in New Book
By Carlotta Gall
A new book written by three Turkish reporters and drawing on audio recordings of the killing of a Saudi expatriate, Jamal Khashoggi, offers new details about an encounter that began with a demand that he return home and ended in murder and dismemberment.
“First we will tell him ‘We are taking you to Riyadh,’” one member of a Saudi hit team told another, the book claims. “If he doesn’t come, we will kill him here and get rid of the body.”
Turkish officials have cited the recordings, saying they captured the death of Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, in his Oct. 2 visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. And intelligence officials leaked some details in a campaign to force Saudi Arabia to own up to the crime.
But the new book offers the most comprehensive description to date of what is on those recordings. It sets the scene as a team of Saudi operatives lay their plans before Mr. Khashoggi arrives, and then recounts what happened next.
The three journalists, Abdurrahman Simsek, Nazif Karaman and Ferhat Unlu, work for an investigative unit at the pro-government newspaper Sabah, and are known for their close ties to Turkish intelligence. They said that they did not have access to the audio recordings but were briefed by intelligence officials who did.
A Turkish security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed separately that the details described in the book were accurate. The book, “Diplomatic Atrocity: The Dark Secrets of the Jamal Khashoggi Murder,” is written in Turkish and went on sale in December.
Saudi officials have offered changing accounts of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi, who had gone to the consulate to pick up documents he needed to get married. At first, they claimed he had left the consulate building safely after an appointment there. Later, they said he had died in a struggle. Eventually, they said he had been killed and dismembered.
The kingdom says it has detained 18 people in the case, and 11 people were charged in Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital, this month.
The book does not explain how the Turkish government obtained the recordings. But it does say that Turkish intelligence officials had gathered audio recordings from several locations in the consulate. Excerpts were later played for senior officials and their foreign counterparts, including Gina Haspel, director of the C.I.A.
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The reporters identify one of the officials on the tapes as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a security official and frequent companion of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Mr. Mutreb is heard giving orders and directing the conversation with Mr. Khashoggi, the book says.
Turkish officials identified Mr. Mutreb and others through sound analysis, the reporters write.
They say it was Mr. Mutreb who laid out the plan to Salah al-Tubaigy, a top forensic official of the Saudi government, telling him they would try to take Mr. Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. If Mr. Khashoggi resisted, “We will kill him here and get rid of the body,” Mr. Mutreb told Mr. Tubaigy, according to the book.
“Jamal is tall, around 1.80 meters,” Mr. Tubaigy is quoted as saying. “The joints of a sacrificial animal are easily split, but dismembering still will take time.”
“I always worked on cadavers,” he said. “I know how to cut well. I have never worked on a warm body until now, but I can handle that easily. Normally while working on a cadaver, I put on my headphones and listen to music. And I drink my coffee and smoke my cigarette.”
“After I dismember, you will wrap them in plastic bags and put in the luggage and take” the body parts out, Mr. Tubaigy added.
Within minutes of entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Mr. Khashoggi was taken to the consul’s office. “Let go of my arm — what do you think you are doing?” he is heard saying.
“As soon as Mr. Khashoggi entered the room,” the reporters write, “Mr. Mutreb told him: ‘Come, sit down. We came to take you to Riyadh.’ Khashoggi’s answer was short and clear: ‘I won’t go to Riyadh.’”
The Saudi team wanted Mr. Khashoggi to send the following message to his son Salah: “My son, I am in Istanbul. Do not worry if you don’t hear from me for a while.” Mr. Khashoggi refused, and Mr. Mutreb ordered his men to set out the tools they had brought to dismember his body, the book says. The audio captures the sound of the instruments being placed on a table.
“Are you going to kill me? Are you going to strangle me?” Mr. Khashoggi is heard asking. Mr. Mutreb told him he would be “forgiven” if he cooperated, the reporters say.
Mr. Mutreb then orders five Saudi agents to jump on Mr. Khashoggi.
One of the agents, who the book says was “most probably Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi,” tried to cover Mr. Khashoggi’s mouth, but the audio suggests that Mr. Khashoggi fended him off, the reporters say.
Mr. Harbi is among the Saudi royal guard and was promoted last year to the rank of lieutenant for bravery in the defense of Prince Mohammed’s palace in Jidda. The book says the group also included Mohammed Saad Alzahrani, another royal guard.
The killers finally managed to put a plastic bag over Mr. Khashoggi’s head, the book says. It took five minutes until he drew his last breath, and his last words were recorded as: “Do not cover my mouth. I have asthma. Don’t, you will strangle me.”
Mr. Khashoggi died at 1:24 p.m., the book reports, just 10 minutes after entering the building.
“The last seconds in the consulate passed with the rasping of the victim who was about to give a farewell to this world,” the reporters write.
After Mr. Khashoggi was dead, Mustafa al-Madani, the Saudi who was sent to be a double of Mr. Khashoggi, and Saif Saad al-Qahtani removed his clothes, the book says. Mr. Harbi and Mr. Zahrani helped Mr. Tubaigy as he dismembered the body, the book says, describing the forensics expert as raining down orders on people around him. “What are you waiting for?” he yelled.
As the scene unfolded, consulate personnel felt sick, the book says.
“According to the audio,” the reporters write, “the chop-chop that was heard now and then established the use of a tool similar to a chopping knife during the dismembering of the bones of the body, while a high-pitched sound of an electric autopsy saw, working frequently, was also recorded.”